by Natalie Bremmer
Michigan Economic Development Corporation's MI-STEP
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
oversees Michigan’s State Trade Expansion Program (MI-STEP) to give
financial assistance to small businesses to pursue exporting their
products and gain access to larger global markets.
They have roughly
$2.667 million worth of aid to give out to small businesses
across the state. Up to 75% of pre-approved exporting expenses can be
covered with a $15,000 maximum per business in a fiscal year when the
Michigan company follows the MI-STEP eligibility criteria.
This program makes entering or expanding in new global markets viable
for small or medium-sized businesses eager to expand while
accommodating a more limited budget.
MI-STEP may seem confusing at first glance, so here are its three
- Increase amount of small and medium-sized businesses in Michigan
that participate in exporting
- Grow the dollar value of Michigan exports
- Provide an avenue for Michigan small businesses to explore new
The eligibility criteria to secure aid from this program include:
- Being in accordance with SBA standards
- Demonstrate understanding of export costs and business with
foreign markets; including freight forwarding, packing, shipping,
and customs brokers
- Show potential for successful exporting as well as a positive
impact on the regional economy
- Provide an EIN number that is linked to a Michigan address
- Must be in good standing with the Michigan Department of Treasury
as well as any other regulatory agencies
- Must be a U.S. company that is prepared to export goods of U.S.
origin with a minimum of 51% U.S. content
Once a business gets this aid, there are particular transactions that
will be covered by MI-STEP funds. These include but are not limited to:
- Participating in foreign-trade missions
- E-commerce fees for advertisement and website design
- Participation in international trade shows
- Foreign sales trips (up to two people on an economy flight)
- EXIM export credit insurance premiums
- Participation in export training workshops
One company that benefitted greatly from an MI-STEP award was Armor
Protective Packaging: a rust removal company that specializes in
making clean, safe, and easily used vapor corrosion inhibitor
packaging. Through MI-STEP, they were able to expand to provide to 90%
of the Fortune 500’s industrial companies as well as several other
countries across the world. More specifically, MI-STEP helped this
company with having the funds to create a local website translated and
customized for the different languages and cultures of the specific
countries they were selling to– effectively expanding their digital
footprint. They were also able to travel to some of these countries to
network and secure international business partners which was another
huge step for them to reach their global markets.
GVSU's Van Andel Global Trade Center
The Van Andel Global Trade
Center is an easily accessible resource with various export
training programs and workshops that are eligible for MI-STEP coverage
that teaches small businesses how to find success similar to how Armor
Protective Packaging did. VAGTC’s incredibly knowledgeable team has
been working with businesses across Michigan for over two decades in
both one-on-one and group settings– entirely depending on their
clients' needs. Throughout their time at GVSU they’ve worked with over
10,000 companies and have assisted more than 31,000 business
professionals. Not only do they have a wealth of experience with
exporting, but they also assist companies of all sizes with importing concerns.
VAGTC consults with companies in the following areas:
- Export & Import Procedure Manuals
- Compliance (export and import)
- Free Trade Agreements such as USMCA
- Global Supply Chain Logistics
- Export Controls Training: ITAR & EAR
- Cultural Training
- Market Research
- Foreign-Trade Zones
- Global Risk Factors
- Harmonized Schedule/Classifications, Export Control Classification Numbers
- and more!
Their website has a variety of helpful resources like guidebooks,
available programs, trade zones, and Worldwide Credit Reports. VAGTC
memberships are also available for discounts on workshops and more
With an ever-expanding global market, there has been no better time
to enter it than right now. Check out MEDC's MI-STEP website
with full details on the program and begin taking full advantage of
all that MEDC has to offer! Companies can also learn more about VAGTC’s services and how we can
get you connected to the MI-STEP program by contacting us today! Now
is the time to grow your small business through increased export
sales, let us help!!
About the Author
is a Student Assistant at
GVSU’s Van Andel Global Trade Center
. She is a sophomore currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in
Finance and Human Resource Management at Grand Valley State
University. She enjoys lifting weights, playing video games,
spending time with friends, and going on long hikes.
April 20, 2022
What is the Harmonized System (HS) and the HS Classification?
The Harmonized System (HS) is a globally recognized way to identify
goods being imported and exported by assigning a standardized
classification. The HS classification is used for declaring goods at
the time of export in export declarations and for the purpose of
filing customs entries at the time of import in the country of
destination. The HS classification is used to determine duty rates and
collect duties, taxes, and fees for the imported products.
The Harmonized System (HS) is something every importing and export
company will need to understand so proper HS classifications can be
assigned to their products. Companies need to take great care in
assigning HS classification and understand the compliance risks
associated with their HS classification decisions. Exporters and
importers alike have a legal responsibility to properly claim and
The Harmonized System (HS) Breakdown
The Harmonized System (HS) is a very structured classification system
made up of sections, chapters, notes, headings, and subheadings.
The United States has two published versions of the Harmonized System
(HS). For imports, the U.S. publishes the Harmonized Tariff Schedule
(HTS) of the U.S. for the HS classification of imported products and
the assignment of duty rates. For exports, the U.S. publishes the
Schedule B for export HS classifications and the collection of
The Harmonized System (HS) is broken down into 22 sections which act
as groupings of similar chapters.
There are 97 chapters of products that are organized from least
manufactured to more manufactured and logically group classifications
by make or by use. The first two digits of each HS classification are
the chapter number. Within each chapter, the Harmonized System (HS)
provides a four-digit heading with the primary legal definition of
what is to be included in that heading. Those headings are further
broken down into six-digit subheadings. The heading and subheading
legal definitions are universal and all countries agree to use the
same legal definitions.
While the globally recognized headings and subheadings remain
constant, each country can further break down the subheadings with
country-specific suffixes. In the U.S. two digits (digit 7 and 8) are
added as the duty rate suffix and two digits (digit 9 and 10) are
added as a statistical suffix – making the U.S. classification a
See the photo above for an example using Coffee.
Why is HS Classification Important for your Business?
First of all, for importers, the HTS classification determines the
duty rates and the duties paid at the time of import so it has
immediate revenue implications. Non-compliance can result in fines,
penalties, and the back payment of additional duties owed.
Paying duties is a non-negotiable, so proper classification can
reduce your compliance risk in the short and long run. The result will
never be good when using the wrong classification. If your
misclassification caused you to overpay in duties, you won’t receive a
refund. If you are underpaid in duties, you are required to pay the
difference, and customs will decide if you will need to pay interest,
and whether or not fines and penalties will be imposed.
For exporting, HS classification is used in:
- Export documentation (ex. Commercial Invoice)
- Export Declaration
- Import customs entry in a country of destination
For importing, HS classification is used in:
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for customs clearance and entry
All in all, use the HS classification to your advantage. Generate
proper classifications and importing and exporting will be smooth sailing.
Are You Interested in Learning More?
GVSU's Van Andel Global Trade Center offers a yearly Fundamentals of
Harmonized System (HS) Classification Training. Check out our Events page to register for this
About the Contributor
Jenna Hoover is working as a student assistant for GVSU’s Van Andel
Global Trade Center. She is a junior at GVSU currently studying
Finance and Supply Chain Management within the Seidman College of
Business. You can find her visiting local coffee shops as she studies
for classes or checks in on her Roth IRA. In her free time, she enjoys
walking her dog, Gertrude, and hanging out with friends along the
beautiful beaches of West Michigan.
April 8, 2022
written by Caleb Holland
The Michigan Automotive Suppliers Symposium is a yearly event
bringing together business owners, senior management, and
decision-makers from all tiers of the automotive industry. This
premier automotive supplier event provides the most up-to-date
industry forecasts, latest issues, and trends, with opportunities to
network and learn from others in the increasingly challenging and
ever-changing industry of automotive.
The 23rd Michigan Automotive Suppliers
Symposium happening on March 10, 2022, in Grand
Rapids, Michigan paints the picture of what a modern auto
industry is. Guest speakers from five organizations will take the
stage to offer diverse perspectives on what is going on in the auto
industry currently and will discuss their projections for the future.
A new age of auto is upon us, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.
The Automotive industry is headed into what could be the largest
shift in automotive technology: The shift from fuel to battery.
Electric vehicles are starting to hit the market at a rapid rate, and
by 2050, they are expected to make up 60% of new car sales. One
company, located in the heart of Michigan's automotive industry is
beginning to transform its market to stay ahead of the industry.
General Motors has pledged a transition to electric vehicles. Over 50%
of their spending will be dedicated to these models of the future. By
2025, their goal is to have 30 EV options launched globally with T
available in North America. Speaking for GM at the 23rd Michigan
Automotive Suppliers Symposium is David Leich, Executive Director of
Global Supply Chain at General Motor. He is equipped with over 30
years of experience in the automotive industry and his expertise will
complement his reports on GM’s current position in the global market
as well as where they are headed in this ever-changing industry.
Learn more about General Motors
IHS Markit analysts have similar ideas about this new age of
vehicles. With extensive forecasts of the driving industry, they
predict the introduction of electric cars will create a domino effect
in other industries. Gas stations will become obsolete; instead,
charging ports can be installed at entertainment sites and shopping
centers. The world of transportation will be cleaner and faster with
this innovative technology. Mike Wall, a Grand Valley State University
Alumni, will be speaking on the behalf of IHS Markit and will give his
analysis of the automotive industry, first-hand.
Learn more about IHS Markit
Hydrogen is a key component in creating water, but Hyzon Motors has
discovered many more of its capabilities. Their technology is based on
complete hydrogen power. Hydrogen can be converted to electricity
which, in turn, creates power for commercial vehicles and marine
equipment. Jay de Veny, from the Hyzon group in Troy, Mi, has been
working to execute the company's visions and create products that
could change the course of the industry.
Learn more about HYZON Motors
DRiV Inc. a division of Tenneco
Adam Kochenderfer has been working with DRiV Inc. to provide a
strategic progression for their values and quality of products. As an
industry leader in aftermarket and original equipment manufacturing,
it is critical for Driv Inc. to use innovation to remain on the
command post of the industry. Automobile parts manufacturing is
dynamic and diverse, and Adam has the solutions to make their visions possible.
Learn more about DRiV Inc. a division of Tenneco
Warner Norcross + Judd
The stumbling blocks of the law are no problem for Warner Norcross +
Judd. They are the epitome of the modern law firm by combining the
latest technology with their tried and true law practices. Extranets
and video technology allow the firm to assist clients in the same
secure way as meeting in person. With changing automotive technology
comes changing laws, but Warner Norcross + Judd has the compass to
navigate its challenges. Michael Brady will communicate how they have
been backing the automotive industry as it goes through its new-age transformation.
Learn More about Warner Norcross + Judd
Join us on March 10th for a morning of networking and
automotive discussions! Register here!
This event is generously title sponsored by: Plante Moran
Along with our 2022 Symposium Sponsors: ArtiFlex, Chase Bank, Corrigan Air
& Sea, IHS Markit, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Morrison
Industrial Equipment, The Right Place, and Warner Norcross + Judd
About the Author
Hello! I am Caleb Holland and I am a freshman student assistant at
the Van Andel Global Trade Center. I am currently studying marketing
and advertising at Grand Valley and plan to pursue a career at an
advertising agency. When I am not working or studying I enjoy running,
swimming boating, and spending time with friends. VAGTC has provided
me with great opportunities and I am excited to see what more I will
February 28, 2022
Updated from Orginal Blog by Ruixuan Ran
Whether you are still in holiday mode or you are just bored with the
dull winter sky, cheer up! We have some good news – the Lunar New
Year, also known as the Chinese New Year (CNY) is here! This
month-long fiesta will give you a legitimate reason to get back into
holiday celebration mode and will help light up dreary the February
days. Like many ancient festivals around the globe, Lunar New Year,
also known as Spring Festival, follows a different timetable: the
Lunar Calendar. That being said, Spring Festival begins January 31st,
with New Year’s Day falling on February 1st and the festivities
continuing until the 15th day of the first Lunar month (aka February
We know it’s a busy time, but we didn’t want you to miss out on this
exciting holiday that millions of people around the world will be
observing, Chinese New Year! So here are some important details to
help you celebrate Chinese New Year like a pro.
It is the Year of…
The very first thing to know is that we are celebrating the Year of the Tiger. Each lunar year is
assigned one of the twelve Chinese zodiac signs – rat, ox, tiger,
rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig –
which rotate in a twelve-year recurring cycle. (Sorry cat-lovers,
there is no Year of the Cat.)
Unfortunately, it is believed that people will have bad luck during
their zodiac year, so for all the people who are turning 12, 24, 36
etc. in the year beginning on February 1st, you may want to wear
something red all year round. Red is a color largely perceived as a
sign of blessing and justice in Chinese culture, so adding something
red to your wardrobe, such as a bracelet, shirt, etc., might help to
ward off bad luck.
Red, Red, Red!
China is enamored with the color red. It symbolizes vitality,
blessings, justice, and festivity. During CNY, you will see people
using red almost everywhere you look. Houses, office buildings, and
streets are covered with red lanterns and lights, and many people wear
red clothes for good luck. The color is indispensable to the Spring
After throwing out all your bad luck by thoroughly cleaning up your
house, the first step to demonstrate that you are ready to welcome a
fresh new year is to decorate your door with an upside-down Chinese
character “Fu” (). “Fu” means fortune, luck,
prosperity, and any other favorable words you can think of. Why put
the Chinese character upside-down? Well, here is a classic example of
pun. The word for “upside-down” (dào, ) is a
homophone for the word for “to arrive” (dào, 0). By hanging
the character upside-down, you are suggesting your fortune is on its way.
Perhaps one of the most gratifying ingredients of the CNY festivities
is the distribution of the red envelopes with “lucky money” wrapped in
them. The origin of the tradition can be traced back
to BC days when people believed children were weak and a monster named
Sui would eat children at the end of the year. Parents would wrap
coins in red paper to scare (some say bribe) the monster in hopes of a
safe and peaceful year for their children. That is why the real name
of “lucky money” is “ya sui qian” which literally means “the
money that suppresses Sui”. The amount of lucky money given widely
varies and depends on the region, but several hundred Yuan is generally expected.
Chinese New Year Jams
Just as we might instinctively put “It’s the most wonderful time of
the year…” on the radio after the first snowfall in Michigan, the
Chinese New Year unofficially begins when malls start to loop the
classic holiday songs that everyone claims to be tired of, yet still
sing along with. Jamming some CNY classics equivalent to Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer at your party would definitely bring the festivity
up a notch. Some of the most well-known songs are: Gong Xi Fa Chai (directly translates to Wish You
Get Wealth), New Year Celebration and Congrats, Congrats. Additionally, there are
several collections of CNY jingles online, even if you do not know the
lyrics, it is the celebratory spirit that counts.
Midnight Carnival: Spring Festival Gala, Fireworks & Mahjong
In 1983, China Central Television launched the first Spring Festival Gala, a show that airs every
Chinese New Year’s Eve featuring musical, dance, and drama
performances. Since then, it has become a modern CNY tradition to
watch the Gala with family while eating a reunion dinner and, more
than likely, playing the game Mahjong.
Mahjong is to the Chinese what Euchre is to many Michiganders. I
would argue though, the Chinese love for the game runs deeper. The fun
part of this tile-based game is that there is no pressure to win it.
In fact, Chinese people can barely ace it themselves as each province
or even each town has its own rules. So if your Chinese friends spend
half an hour debating on the rules before starting the game, don’t
worry about it.
Of course, it would not be much of a New Year’s festival without
firecrackers and fireworks. Although in very recent years, local
governments of major cities have limited the usage of fireworks for safety,
pollution, and noise reasons, many people will still stay up until
midnight to watch the fireworks displays.
Needless to say, we now live in a very different time to the original
Chinese New Year festivals. As many older folks might lament the
changing of bygone conventions, the younger Chinese generation
has offered their own interpretations of the holiday and many of these
are now new traditions.
Customarily, the elders of a family give the red envelopes of lucky
money to the children. Today however, there is no limit to whom you
can give red envelopes to including friends, coworkers, or anyone you
care about. The rise of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group has saved a lot of work for this
gift-giving process, as apps such as WeChat and AliPay allow people to
send “red envelopes” instantly (and in a more environmentally
responsible way). An individual can digitally send several Yuan to
another person as a gesture to spread good cheer, or he/she could put
a red envelope in a group chat for people to share. This ritual has
become more and more popular for business occasions as well.
Reuniting with family members back home used to be the most important
way to spend the New Year, but today a stronger economy and rising
living standards have extended the option of where this celebration
takes place. Instead of undergoing the busiest travel rush of the
year, many opt to travel overseas to Japan, Korea, Southern Asia,
and even Europe during the New Year period. In fact, the Spring
Festival has become the most popular time for the Chinese to take
The 15th day of the first Lunar month (February 15) marks
the official end of the holiday; you will probably be a CNY expert by
then! As the old saying goes, ‘well begun is half done'. So go ahead
and dress in red, hang your “Fu” on the door, spread the lucky money
cheer, and have a great New Year!
About the Contributor
Ruixuan Ran graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2018.
She was a Student Assistant at Van Andel Global Trade Center. She
grew up in China, and during her time at GVSU she double-majored in
accounting and international business with a minor in French.
February 1, 2022